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People Management: An Individual Skill more than just a Role

Posted by Jai on June 10, 2009

This post share some thoughts that why people management is an individual skill rather than just a role you can play. We talk a lot about how Team work is an individual skill and you need to balance the individualism and team work in an agile development. And on the same terms in Agile management the people management skill plays an important role to create high performance teams.

We will have a look at how you can balance out managing the top management and team. Some of the turn off factors/scenarios/characteristics of a pseudo manager. And how it is more relevant in Agile management and how your scrum master should be like.


Some of the related posts on the similar topics are Teamwork Is An Individual Skill , Agile Development: Balancing Individualism and Teamwork , High-performance Teams – Avoiding Teamicide and How to Tide Over Organizational Politics?

Balancing out to manage your higher Management & the Team

Managing people itself is challenging task. Again balancing out to manage all the involved parties is very tough. Even your manager needs to report to his/her boss.

Managing your higher Management: The higher management is not much interested in the minor details and the team problems. Most often the intentions of putting some one at the top of bunch of people is to have single point of contact and delegating everything through one person. The role demands the outcome in the desired way and put the responsibility on you to get it done. And how do you manage it and what you do to achieve it is seen more from the results that are shown.

Managing the Team: The team gonna look at you in case of any issues, impediments and problems. They expect you to take care of organizational politics and get it done to help and continue the team. There are always different types of people with in a team. There are few who don’t care what is happening around, won’t get effected by any decision. There are few who may be new and would be in the process of learning and will take it as the trends you set that things work like this only. There are few who will always put different perspectives, who know how the things work and what fits the best, the contradictions gonna be high here.

Balancing both: You can not work just to make your top management happy to show the results that you can play the role. The difference between managing the team and using the team to achieve your personal targets is very fine. You should not manage the team in what ever way and make them work in unsustainable pace etc., it won’t last long and may have direct or indirect consequences. Sooner or later you loose the trust of the team in this way.

You can not work just to keep the team happy irrespective of getting the desired outcome. The result oriented approach should definitely be there but not at the cost of the team. There may be times when you need to over work, compromise on things may be quality of work, work with people you no longer want to but that decision should be more of team decision rather than forcing the decision on the team, leaving aside the few exceptional cases.

The right approach is to balance out both the things to make it work better.

Typical Turn-off Characteristics of a manager

In one way or the another you must have seen at least some of these characteristics in manager role. The points you can directly map to your manager like:


Authority: I have the authority around. All the final decisions will be taken by me. You work under me. You report to me. Do as I say.

Who is the boss: I am the boss around. You do it for me.

I am always right: Do what I say, For record lets discuss it. This is fine but I don’t agree with this so you just do what I say.

Me and the Team: This is the team and I am the manager of the team.

Contradictions: You contradict with me. You are not a good team member. You don’t like to work under me, you are hard to handle.

I am just managing: I am just managing your team. You do your job, answer me when I need to report to the top. Find the solution yourself, don’t bother me.

Taking personal than professional: This team member does not like me. Is it my color, caste, look…what???. There is something wrong with him.

Superiority: I am manager now and I am also skilled/ Technically good. I am too good for them.

Consider others like crap: These team members don’t know anything. They should work harder.

Getting cranky: Why these few team members always stay together? Why they go out for break so often?

Always conscious: It looks like those guys in the far corner are talking about me. Don’t know what local language or slang or code words they are using?

How dare to use ‘F’ word: You speak to me like this, I will see you at the time of feedback.

Productivity: You have been away from your seat for blah blah time and do you know how much productive time you have wasted. You don’t fit here.

We won’t be talking here how cranky (or directly, pain in a** :)) a team member can be.

Agile Management

Now think of a scrum team and how would you manage to make high-performance team and as a team member how would you like your scrum master be. Agile talks about empowering the team and minimal management. How the scrum master role is more dependent on keeping the above things in mind, helping and understanding the team to empower and reach up to that level to be self organized.

How your Scrum Master be like:

To be it, the team look at you in the sense as a team member who is playing the role of the manager and there to help the team, easy to reach, open to ideas and suggestions, not a management piggy and many more similar things.


Skilled in people management.

Technically sound, would be a plus.

Team Player, Walah Walah…

And many more…add as per your own list.

From my own experiences that putting technical experienced person for the role of people management has crashed a lot of times. It may happen that you still get the results and the output is delivered but the difference is gonna be the fall of the high performance teams or the same team which could have delivered much greater, which you missed out in the process.


One Response to “People Management: An Individual Skill more than just a Role”

  1. hivikas said

    Really nice post…. Seems to have first hand experience of all this….

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